I liked this story so much, I felt that 16-year-old me didn't do it justice. 31-year-old me figured I could do a better job. I'll let you be the judge... :)
It was a hot day in August. Well, a hot day for August to a six-year-old kid in South San Francisco, so it was probably around 80 degrees. I had run out of things to do that day. Sesame Street was over, and all that was on was the news. My only job was to tell my grandmother when the soap operas came on so she could change the channel again to make sure that we continued to watch the news. This was mind-numbingly tedious for me, but at least I felt like I was helping out.
Because school was out, I was spending the day at my grandparents' house like I did every workday during the summer. My mother would drop me off at their house every morning, and my father would pick me up after work in the evenings. Luckily for me, it was a Tuesday, so my grandfather was home, in addition to my grandmother, who was home every day. Even though my grandfather was almost 70 years old, he still worked three days a week, but he had Tuesdays and Wednesdays to stay home and do chores around the house or play with his often demanding, and of course his only, granddaughter.
My grandmother was sitting at the table doing crossword puzzles. The child version of me could never help and thus found the books filled with these pieces of paper covered in words and small black boxes even more dull than being on the lookout for soap operas. There was no color and you could hardly call those little grids pictures.
I decided since my grandmother wasn't doing anything even remotely fun, I would hunt around the house and find my grandfather and get him to entertain me. Perhaps we could play a game or he could take me to the park where he might find a playmate for me. I was always a shy young girl and whenever there was someone else that might want to play with me at the park, I'd whisper to my grandfather a request that he go ask this other child if he or she would be interested in running around at the playground a bit with his granddaughter. No one ever said "no" but I suppose I always thought it was because the request came from an adult.
My grandfather was always building something or fixing something in the garage, so that was the first place I figured to look.* I walked into the kitchen and heard him tinkering around back there in the garage, so I made slapping sounds with my feet on the linoleum floor of the kitchen to alert him to my oncoming presence. As I approached the entrance to the garage, I noticed a line of ants trekking its way along the perimeter of the doorway and a light went on in my head as I discovered my next mission to stave off boredom.
My grandparents had lived in their house since my father was seven years old, so it wasn't exactly in top condition. There were cracks and crevices in numerous places, through all of which ants liked to come in from the heat, or the cold, or the rain, or basically just to grab a crumb or two, despite the copious amount of ant stakes or Chinese chalk that my grandparents would put out in efforts to stop them. My grandmother would always produce a ratty old tissue from her vest pocket and wipe away the ants from where ever she saw them, and then proceed to nag my grandfather to put out more poison.
As soon as I saw the trail of tiny black dots infesting my grandparents' doorway, I knew that I could take over my grandmother's job. It would be just as easy as alerting her to soap operas; I just knew it. I flitted back over to the dining room table where my grandmother sat with her boring word boxes, and I snatched up a tissue from the box sitting next to her. She didn't ask me where I was going with it and I was glad. It would be a nice surprise to see her granddaughter all grown up, able to handle these invaders all by herself.
I sprinted back to the doorway and took a deep breath. A smug smile crossed my face as I put a tentative hand forward, armed with a tissue, and I began pressing the cloth amidst the trail. I saw some ants scatter around, leaving their set paths, and I knew I was making a difference. Grinning with pride, I started rubbing the tissue faster and faster. My hair, curly in humid heat, fell around my shoulders and tickled my arm. I didn't care though. I knew I had to finish what I started. My toe started to feel itchy too, but I figured I was sweating from my intense effort. Soon the sweat was dribbling on my ankles, then my shins and calves, and subsequently, my knees. It became unbearable and decided I could take a break to wipe my legs before I continued my valiant ant destruction. As my eyes traveled down my body from my little t-shirt, past my shorts, to my legs, I realized that my legs were covered in small moving black beauty marks. It suddenly occurred to me, with a stinging clarity, that beauty marks should not be moving. I glanced at my tissue wielding arm and realized that it too was covered in these living beauty marks. I shrieked with recognition at what was happening.
My savior arrived momentarily, fishing the crumpled tissue from her vest pocket as she had done so many numerous times before to defeat these tiny creatures, and brushed the writhing little bodies from her granddaughter who happened to be running in place and screaming. As the last few ants flew off of me, I decided that like crossword puzzles, I should probably leave insect battles to my grandmother. I then sped off from the kitchen, running away to the safety of the dining room, and I heard my grandmother nagging my grandfather in the garage to spray the doorway and put out some more poison.
*I'm still convinced he can build and fix anything in the world and could probably have worked at NASA if he wasn't Chinese and born in the wrong time period - he has stories about ending up a cook in the Navy because they wouldn't let him work on airplanes due to wariness of all Asians and racism during WWII.